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The WatchDog has been published by the Society of Environmental Journalists for nearly two decades, relentlessly alerting journalists of threats to their ability to gather information and do their jobs. Thanks to funding from the Newmark Foundation — and a new sense of urgency — SEJ is renewing and redoubling this effort. In 2020, SEJournal relaunched the WatchDog in a new form — as a regularly published opinion column advocating open information in a personal voice (find the 2008-early 2020 archives of the former WatchDog Tipsheet here). The “voice” of the WatchDog will be that of columnist Joseph A. Davis (pictured, right), who has been advocating First Amendment freedom for all that time and who has been covering the environment journalistically since the 1970s. Read more about the WatchDog opinion column.

Latest WatchDog Items

January 13, 2021

November 25, 2020

  • As a new Biden administration prepares for office, WatchDog issues a call for restoring open government. The latest opinion column puts forward a list of 20 recommended actions that include outlawing assault on journalists, clearing FOIA backlogs and counteracting ag-gag laws. Plus, an updated reporter’s Bill of Rights for government press offices.

October 21, 2020

  • A forthcoming U.S. National Climate Assessment, due in 2022, faces delays, thanks to Trump administration foot-dragging, according to the new WatchDog Opinion column. And the Supreme Court, possibly with a new Justice Amy Coney Barrett aboard, is about to hear arguments on a freedom of information case involving the Endangered Species Act.

September 23, 2020

  • More revelations of Trump administration duplicity on the science front, per the new WatchDog opinion column, which reports on a scoop about political appointees trying to warp weekly public health data to ensure they don’t undercut Trump’s political messaging. Oh, and Bob Woodward’s new book affirming the president knew of COVID-19’s dangers early on, but deliberately played them down.

August 26, 2020

  • Efforts to bury pandemic data is a story environmental journalists best keep an eye on, argues the new WatchDog opinion column. That’s partly because of the connection between the novel coronavirus and climate change, air pollution and environmental justice. But also because it echoes a deepening rejection of science that’s long been part of the environment beat. 

July 8, 2020

June 10, 2020

  • Mishandling of vital information by the U.S. government worsened the COVID-19 pandemic, argues the latest WatchDog. The no-holds-barred opinion piece, which notes that coronavirus is as much an environmental story as a public health one, points the finger at the White House and the “Silent CDC,” sifts the wreckage of the testing program and speculates about the dearth of data as the nation reopens.

May 13, 2020

April 15, 2020

March 25, 2020

  • In the second of a two-part return from hiatus recast as an opinion column from SEJournal Online’s Joseph A. Davis, WatchDog looks at freedom of information developments at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Interior. Plus, check out part one for more on the column relaunch and for background on open-information activities by the Society of Environmental Journalists, as well as a look at the lack of government openness around coronavirus.